Marie Hammer began her life-long relationship with 4-H as a club member in Calcausieu Parish, Louisiana where she excelled with projects in leadership, canning, clothing, electricity, gardening and home improvement.
She attended National 4-H Congress in 1954 as a National Canning Scholarship winner. While in 4-H she held local and state 4-H leadership offices. Both during and after college Hammer served as an extension volunteer leader where she conducted educational programs for both adults and youth in Louisiana, Arizona and Florida.
With the help of a 4-H scholarship, Hammer was able to attend McNeese State University where she graduated with a bachelor of science degree in home economics education.
“The National 4-H Canning Scholarship enabled me to begin college,” said Hammer. “My participation in 4-H provided the incentive to be an Extension professional and has provided opportunities and opened doors for me that I never dreamed existed.”
She became an extension professional in 1959 when she became county home economist in Allen Parish, Louisiana. Hammer later received a master of science degree from the University of Arizona. She became a state extension specialist in Florida in 1969.
Hammer spent her career with Extension and served as a specialist for home economics educational programs in nutrition, solid waste management, housing and home environment while working with the Florida Cooperative Extension Service.
“Marie has given so much leadership to the youth and 4-H components within each of her program areas,” said Emily King. “She developed strong programs and was responsible and successful in giving leadership and cooperating in securing grants, doing research, and producing related materials.”
She was on the editing team for a book about the history of the Florida Cooperative Extension Service called, Dimensions in History. She authored a chapter titled, “Home Economics Meet Ever-Changing Need.”
Hammer helped build the University of Florida’s Department of Family, Youth and Community Services and helped launch the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) by putting together policies, procedures, and educational materials to be used nationally. This program helped thousands of low-income families learn about healthy eating and develop skills for life.
She also initiated a statewide design team for solid waste management within the Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Working with a team of University of Florida faculty, staff, and extension agents, Hammer developed public education programs for adults and youth for managing solid and hazardous waste.
Hammer was the project director or co-director for grants totaling $217,000, including awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. She has helped numerous county faculty members secure more than $7 million in grants for solid waste (and housing) programs.
The program brought widespread visibility to the University of Florida and was featured in professional journals and the Yearbook of Agriculture. Under Hammer's leadership the design team received national recognition and awards, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Florida Governor’s Environmental Award.
She was also involved in statewide design teams for other programs affecting 4-H members, including the Environmental Education for Florida Youth team, the Natural Resource Conservation Education in Florida team, the Environmental Landscape Management design team, and the Housing/Home Environment design team. She was a team leader for the design team for Sustaining Community Development and Nature Systems in Florida.
“Mrs. Hammer served with distinction and was highly recognized and honored for her professional contributions,” said Tom Greenawalt. “She was rightly honored with the Florida Association of Extension 4-H Agents Outstanding Specialist Award in 1991. She ended her career as housing and home environment specialist where she created a program helping with the pre-and-post-purchase of affordable housing. This program was featured in several popular magazines and publications.”